How YOU are a Self-Made Maker

When I was 22 years old, I got the job offer of a lifetime. After years of working in different offices, I nabbed the station manager position at a small Spanish-language TV station based in Teterboro, New Jersey. The job was everything I could have dreamed of: I planned a programming schedule serving the New York area, I met with advertisers, and I led a team forward in my creative vision. I was the youngest person in the country with a title like mine. It was such a big deal that The New York Daily News even wrote an article about my network, calling me the “Cuban missile” station manager. The work took over my life, but I loved it, and I was happy to let it define me. Then, one day, the company’s attorney called me into his office to tell me that the company had been sold, and I would be laid off right away.

Furious, I marched into the owner’s office. “How could you do this to me?” I said, about to launch into a tirade. He put his palm in the air and stopped me. “Young lady,” he said. “These are my chips.” You want to play? Get your own chips.” What he meant was this: If you want control of a company, you need to own the company. And the same goes for your career. If you want to run it, you have to own it. I let my job title decide my path. On the spot, I redefined my mission.

Even though I had no clue how to execute it, I decided to start my own production company. That day, I became a maker, creating programming for different networks while working for myself. Since then, there have been a lot of rough patches, but creating my own business, and defining my own terms in my work is precisely what has led to the success I enjoy today. This week, in partnership with The White House, I celebrate National Makers Week because I believe that more of us need to openly declare that we are makers, and we have valuable inventions to share. .

What is a maker? Do you belong to this movement? If you’ve thought of owning your own business or mocked up your own invention, or dream of creating things with your own hands, then I assure you that, yes, you are a maker, and you are part of the economic future of the United States.

According to the Atmel Corporation, there are approximately 135 million makers working in the United States today. These are people who use their creative skills to invent new things — from baked goods to 3-D printers — and start their own businesses. Being a maker can sound intimidating: how can you tell the difference between a good idea and an “invention?” What if my idea isn’t “good enough” to make money? The answer is that if you commit to it, and keep finding new strategies, all ideas are worthwhile. You don’t need a lab coat or a degree in computer science to call yourself a maker. I worked for four years without making a dime off my business, until I found the right partners to make my ideas profitable. Makers build new things because they solve problems and they fulfill our passion for creativity. These are people who are self-made entrepreneurs, who are not only building their own futures — they’re also securing the future of the economy, pumping $29 billion dollars into the economy every year!

As multicultural women, we are especially well equipped to be effective makers. In 2007, in the middle of a recession, we started a trend, a self-made movement. While companies were busy laying people off and shutting down, we occupied ourselves with starting up: from 2007 to 2016, women-owned businesses launched at a rate of five times the national average, employing millions and contributing $1.6 trillion in revenue to the U.S. economy. Nearly eight out of ten of these new businesses were launched by women of color, who created new opportunities for themselves in every sector, from health services to technology.

For me, being a maker has facilitated new opportunities, for myself and for the other self-made women in my community. In the years since I started my own production company, I’ve created hundreds of hours of TV programming. I was the first Latina to appear on the Celebrity Apprentice, and I’ve traveled the country sharing entrepreneurial advice with Latinas. This year, I’ve launched SELF MADE, a book, website, and mobile app that brings thousands of entrepreneurial women together, in order to share resources and help us build and grow our businesses together. Do you have a business you’ve always dreamed of launching? Is there a reason why you haven’t taken the next big step towards building a business capable of supporting you or your family? Do you wonder if it’s possible to build a career on your own? If you, like millions of women across the country, already lead your family’s decisions, then I would argue that you already are a maker. Make it official by joining our movement today: go to The White House’s Nation of Makers website and start a project today! Invite a group of friends and make it happen together. Without realizing it, you already make dreams happen every day, for your family, and all your loved ones. When will it finally be time to invest in your own? Declare yourself a maker today, and find just a few hours this week to tinker with your own ideas. I’ll be sharing resources on all my social media channels: Follow me at @beselfmadenow and @AdelantePower, to share your progress (use #NationofMakers and #IamSELFMADE hashtags)! Hope to see you there!